First things first. If you’re looking for a great, inspired meal check out Hearth Restaurant! Hearth is located in the East Village in NYC and shares our localvore passion for food, sourcing many ingredients from farms local to metro NY.
Debra and I had occasion to dine out this week and chose to check out the kitchen pass at Hearth. We’ve dined several times in the dining room at Hearth and have always been impressed. The kitchen pass is a very different dining experience, and great in a different kind of way. Our seats (2 of 4 total) put us on the counter, just feet down from the pass, where dishes are plated and sent into service. Inches away from the action!
We chose the chef’s tasting menu, a seven course sampling, paired with wine. It was fun to see Chef Marco Canora communicate his passion for excellence to the entire kitchen staff. It was also great to have Chef Marco deliver several courses himself and have the opportunity to chat for a few moments about his dishes. (You might recognize Chef Marco as a contestant on this season’s “Next Iron Chef”.)
First course was a salad of braised endive, pistachios, ricotta salata and orange. The sweet richness and delicate bitterness of the braised endive mirrored similar sweet flavors from the orange and rich, astringent notes from the roasted pistachios. Paired with a dry Austrian Riesling, showing a likewise conflicted synergy, the course really took off!
Next up was sweetbread piccata with potato purée and hen of the woods mushroom. Rich, flavorful and elegant. Just two courses in and we were feeling really great about the evening.
Fast forward three more courses, each distinctive, delicious and inspired…
I haven’t said too much about the wines, which were selected as half glasses for us to pair with each course. Primarily from the list of wines by the glass, very nice and nicely paired with the courses.
The two sweet courses were a perfect way to end our meal. Here the wine selected was a 2006 Alsatian Gewurztraminer. Rich, sweet, and alluring. First dessert was cold quince soup topped with yogurt sorbet. This pairing was perfect.
Final course was pear clafoutis , spiced seckel pear and bartlett pear sorbet (sorry, no photo). This dessert was quite distinctive from the first. And whereas the quince soup accentuated rich quince and lychee elements in the Gewurztraminer, the spiced pear and clafoutis keyed in on the floral and spicy elements of the wine. Very different pairings and both quite elegant.
To sum up the meal, Great.
Many thanks to Chef Marco Canora and Paul Grieco for a terrific evening!
This past Tuesday marked the third year of the Red Newt / Taverna Banfi collaboration with the HA3305 student restaurant
management team. Each year, actually twice per year, chef (wife) Debra Whiting works with a team of Cornell students that conceptualize, formulate, and execute and exquisite culinary evening at Taverna Banfi at the Cornell University’s Statler Hotel.
The students and Debra do most of the work, discussing how to incorporate ideas about local food and wine into the menu. I get to talk food and wine and help with the wine pairing ideas. The group of students that we worked with this time around were exceptional, bringing focus, enthusiasm, and inspiration to the table. At the dinner, it really showed.
If you have an opportunity to make one of the Banfi/Red Newt dinners, I suggest that you do. If you weren’t able to make this dinner, an exceptional presentation, here is how it went down…
Arrival at 6:30. All of our party had not arrived, so we passed a bit of time with some 2002 Chateau Franc Brut. Nice.
Our party had all arrived, that’s 17 of the Red Newt crew, and the first course was sauteed pear and fall green salad with hazelnuts, feta and Riesling pear vinaigrette served with 2009 Red Newt Dry Riesling. This course was just outstanding. The pears are delicately poached, a slight crunch while delicately soft. Salad dressing was flavorful, but understated, making it a perfect complement to the wine. The greens were exquisitely flavorful, and the hazelnuts and feta added the bit of robust flavor that set this dish apart. And the
The second course was a a butternut squash sage ravioli with sage-butter sauce served with the 2007 Red Newt Gewurztraminer from Sawmill Creek Vineyard. Ravioli was delicately firm with an ethereal intertwining of sage aromas carried by a rich but delicate butter sauce. The delicate sweetness and earthiness of the ravioli was a perfect match to the delicate but effusive spiciness of the Gewurztraminer – a match made in heaven. My favorite detail of the dish was the garnish of a single fresh sage leaf that had been, essentially, fried in hot butter until it had become crispy, having been releasing its sage aromas and flavors to the butter making up the light but decadent butter sauce.
The students really outdid themselves with the main course. Venison loin stuffed with currants, sausage and pecans. Delicately roasted vegetables and wilted winter greens. Yum. The venison was rich, flavorful and tender enough to cut with my fork. Wine choice with this course was the 2007 Red Newt Caberrnet Franc – Glacier Ridge Vineyards. This Cabernet Franc is one of my favorites, showing supple textures and rich fruit.
We topped off the evening with Maple-Gingerbread layer cake with salted caramel sauce and cinnamon ice cream. Paired with the dessert was a warm apple cider spiked with Finger Lakes Distilling Maple Jack.
Debra and I and the Red Newt crew had a great evening at Taverna Banfi. It was truly a celebration of great food and wine. We’re already looking forward to doing this again with the next group of students from Taverna Banfi and HA 3305, the Restaurant Management Course in the spring. We’ll keep you posted!
That’s a good question! It’s the question that I ask every year. And even with my 21 years of harvest experience in the Finger Lakes, I always get a different answer.
There are some new, neat things happening this year at Red Newt. We have started harvest *very* early this year with our first picking on the first of September. This picking wasn’t for wine it was for “Verjooz”. What is “verjooz” you might ask? Verjooz is our version of verjuice (or verjus) which is grape juice made from very early picked grapes. It is very tart, like lemon juice, and very flavorful. It makes a great component of salad dressings, marinades, and sauces. In many situations where you might use lemon juice or vinegar you can use Verjooz to make a delicious wine friendly dish. Debra will be working with Verjooz in the kitchen and posting recipes and videos soon. Check it out at verjooz.com
The other question of the hour is “What is this harvest going to bring?”. That is a good question without a clear answer. I’ve been reading predictions of the harvest lately, made by various folks that espouse such wisdom of the future. The fact is that, when trying to predict the outcome of harvest in a cool, variable growing region months before a grape is picked, there are no guarantees. If you feel absolutely compelled to feel that you know the future, try calling one of the handful of winemakers in the Finger Lakes who has been watching weather come and go around harvest for the past 20-30 years. Their crystal balls are shinier than most.
The weather in the Finger Lakes continues to be just about perfect. In the 70′s and sunny during the day and in the 50′s at night. Great ripening weather. It is really starting to feel like harvest. This weekend I’ll be making my first “baseline” harvest assessment of the vineyards I’ll let you know what I find.
Last night I received the following comment to a video piece that we did commemorating the 10 year anniversary of Red Newt Cellars. It really has nothing to do with the video to which it was attached, but I didn’t want to just delete it. After all, whoever wrote this had something to say, and wanted it said in a public. So I have moved the comment here, on RedNewtWrite.com where there can be a venue for further conversation.
“Boycott Red Newt David Whiting has joined the initiative to shut down liquor stores and restrict your access to wine outside of supermarkets. Send the message to Mr Whiting that having access to a wide range of wines means more to the consumer that false promises by Wegmans to carry his low quality wine. Boycott RedNewt.”
So why did I get this message? I can only guess.
Many of you may be aware that there is currently legislation being considered that would change some of the laws that govern the sale of wine and liquor in New York state. The bill is sponsored by Assemblyman Joe Morelle and is titled “The wine industry and liquor store revitalization act”. I think that it’s a good name. The changes proposed would, I believe, result in positive changes for many facets of the NY wine industy, and would generate significant economic benefit to the State of NY. If you are unsure of what the bill contains, or have only heard secondhand analysis, I suggest you read the bill yourself. You can download the entire bill, or a copy of the memorandum which covers the high points, by following this link.
So why boycott Red Newt? I have a clue.
Yesterday, I visited the Last Main Street Store Facebook Fan group. Following my post I received the following message: “We have removed your post and banned you from the Last Main Street Store Fan group. Falsifying who you are to stir up anger is not what the group is about. I suggest you display some professionalism and maturity in the future.” Following this were a couple private emails suggesting I stop, lest my business by hurt, culminated with the post I listed above.
So what did I post that was so unprofessional?
Alas, not being a paranoid person, I didn’t make a backup copy of my now deleted post. But it was something very close to this: “I own a small business in the NY wine industry. As a small business owner, I am constantly changing my business and marketing strategies in order to stay competitive. I think that strategic compromise on this issue is important for the health of the industry and for NY State. You can read the Morrelle bill at this link: http://nywia.com/web/index.php?option=com_docman&task=cat_view&gid=19&Itemid=9”
Recently, the Last Store on Main Street Coalition claimed success with their New York Wine Month(s). Their press release claimed that the program “was a success, boosting sales of New York wines significantly and creating a stronger relationship between New York’s retailers and wineries.” While I question the success of the promotion, I do suggest that there be a thoughtful and sincere dialog of how best to change the industry and move forward.
I believe that there is a solution to this issue that can benefit all who are involved. But to arrive at this solution it is essential to be willing to discuss and consider views which differ from one’s own.
Have you seen this?
Come to Finger Lakes Wine Country this summer on a memorable roadtrip “in search of the perfect rosé” at one of the over 100 wineries in the region. Rosés are light, refreshing, and range in style from sweet to dry. These wines are perfect for summer enjoyment and we want you to help us find the perfect rosé.
Wow! That sounds like fun. Roses are cool. Roses are tasty. And roses are perfect for summer.
So, the next question is, “How many roses will you find in the Finger Lakes.” The answer is, “ A lot more than a few years ago.” It turns out that, as the popularity of imported rose wines increases (42% last year), domestic rose producers, including winemakers in the Finger Lakes, are getting excited about roses. And why not? Rose wines are fun to make and drink. They are great food wines, and an extremely satisfying alternative to a heavier red wine during the summer. In spite of the fact that I personally have not made a dry rose since 1992, I am very excited again about rose.
At Red Newt, we made a decision last fall to produce a small quantity of rose for the 2008 vintage. The varieties I chose to work with were Cabernet Franc and Syrah. There are different methods for creating a light red (pink?) wine from red grapes. One way is to crush the grapes into the red fermenter then, after a few hours, or days, drain off some of the juice which has absorbed some, but not all, of the color from the skins. The remainder of the juice and skins then continue on through the fermentation to become red wine. This is what we did with the Syrah portion of the 2008 Red Newt Rose. Another way is to crush the grapes, let them “steep” for a day or so, then press off the whole lot. This process actually gives a very different result in terms of juice chemistry and resulting wine structure and is generally a preferred approach to rose production. This is what we did with our 2008 Cabernet Franc Rose.
The final rose blend at Red Newt is 64% Cabernet Franc and 46% Syrah. It is dry, crisp and vibrant with cherry and strawberry fruit. I think that I had mentioned that the last commercial rose that I produced was sixteen years ago. So you may imagine how excited I feel to be in the rose saddle again. In a couple of months, I hope that you’ll share my excitement.
The Finger Lakes region is a region of change. In winemaking, as in life and business, it is essential to embrace the world around you, to recognize change and to evolve your focus and practices to move forward. The excitement and focus on Riesling that has been so intense in the past few years will grow and continue, but I predict that the excitement around rose will likewise rise to a fervor.
So what have we learned? Well, I’ve learned that winemakers and drinkers alike are really psyched about Riesling. In past years, there has been focus and highlighting of Riesling in the month of May. But this year, we’ve outdone ourselves. If you missed all of the Riesling dinners, vertical tastings and celebrations that went on both at central venues and at almost every tasting room, don’t worry. May is Riesling month in NY, but we celebrate Riesling every day.
The vertical tastings of older Finger Lakes Riesling were some of the best fun. While I have been producing Riesling in the Finger Lakes for more than 20 years, it is seldom that I sit in front of a table of Riesling stretching back 10 vintages. This kind of presentation occured at many individual wineries, including at Red Newt’s Riesling dinner last week, as well as at the NY Wine and Culinary Center earlier in the month. The point that these events drive home is that Riesling is not just a wine that is fun and fruity young, but rather it is a wine that shows personality, complexity and ageability. Note to self: Drink older Finger Lakes Riesling more often!
Another celebration of Riesling occured at the International Eastern Wine Competition (IEWC). The fact that 2006 was a great year for Finger Lakes Riesling was demonstrated again as the 2006 Tierce took top awards as Best Dry Riesling / Best Riesling / Best White Wine of the competition. Tierce is a collaborative winemaking project that Peter Bell (Fox Run), Johannes Reinhardt (Anthony Road) and I have been producing since 2004. Our goal is to create a synergy of three vineyards, from three wineries, and three winemakers to create our vision of the highest expression of Finger Lakes Riesling. It’s fun when other people give a nod to our success.
So, enjoy the rest of May and remember the three R’s of the Finger Lakes: Riesling, Riesling, Riesling!
May is officially Riesling Month in New York state. What’s this all about?
Riesling has been grown in the Finger Lakes since the early 1970′s. Some of the first vineyards were planted by Gold Seal Vineyards on a site just five miles north of Red Newt. It took a couple of decades for Riesling really to catch on. There certainly were nice, to excellent, Rieslings being produced through the 80′s and 90′s; largely in semi-dry, straightforward styles. But it wasn’t until about 10 years ago that most Finger Lakes winemakers started examining the full breadth of quality and style that Riesling has to offer. As we examine these styles, the full potential of Finger Lakes Riesling is coming to the surface.
The expression of place with Riesling is strong. I realized early on, starting at McGregor Vineyards in the late 80′s and later, during the early 90′s, on Seneca Lake working with fruit from Chateau Lafayette Reneau and (then) Rolling Vineyards (Atwater Vineyards now) that there was a dramatic difference in the fruit from vineyards planted as closely as a few yards apart. At that time, most of these vineyards were 5-10 years old. Now, of course, they are more than 20 years old, and showing great maturity and depth. (The changes in fruit and wine expression with vineyard age is a topic for another discussion.) Over the years, I have had my favorite vineyards, and still do, that displayed the combination of fruit intensity, complexity, and finesse that I consider to be the quintessential Finger Lakes Riesling.
So why celebrate Riesling? The Finger Lakes industry has had its ups and downs. When I became involved as a winemaker in the late 80′s the region was definitely poised for an upswing. There were some nice wines being made, and alot of energy in the thoughts and actions of the pioneers of the day. Sparkling wine looked to be a major focus for the area. We did, with great attention and focus, find that great sparkling wines could be made in the Finger Lakes, but the economic success in that market segment did not generally come to fruition.
Reds were barely on the scene, with a few Pinot Noirs and some red hybrids. (This was pre-Cabernet Franc in the Finger Lakes.) And the rest of the wine production was made up of Chardonnay, Riesling, Cayuga, Seyval, Vidal, Niagara, Delaware and Catawba…something for everyone. Riesling was one of many and had not yet gained the attention that it deserved. Then something started changing. I remember well making a conscious goal in about 1992 to “figure out” how to make Riesling that was not just good, but truly excellent. I then, over the next 15 years, worked diligently to explore the parameters of vineyard selection, fruit maturity, harvest management, fruit handling, press management, juice fractions, yeast selection, solids management, fermentation temperature, lees contact, stirring, phenolic management, sulfur management and ageing strategies. And I was not alone: all of the winemakers in the Finger Lakes were on board with this effort, and these kinds of details were common topics of conversation among us.
Now, Riesling really has taken the limelight of the Finger Lakes wine industry. Exploration has led to innovation and quality. And passion has let to achievement. We are still making a wide variety of other wines, but Riesling truly forms the framework that will carry the region forward.
As a native of the Finger Lakes, and as a winemaker who’s career has spanned three of what must be the most exciting decades of the modern Finger Lakes wine industry, I see the evolution of Riesling as the most exciting developments of my career. It’s reason for celebration. And May is Riesling month in the Finger Lakes. So let’s celebrate!
(original post on 3/30/2009)
I continue to believe selling wine in grocery stores, alongside food with which it pairs so well, is the best way to introduce new consumers to the appreciation of healthy, responsible consumption of wine with their meals. In failing to pass this measure, we may have missed our opportunity to greatly increase the number of New Yorkers who enjoy wine in this way on a regular basis and have hence restricted our opportunity to grow as an industry.
I agree that there are many great wine shops in the state that provide excellent selection and service to their customers. Many of these shops sell our wines. Over the past few days I have received many emails from wine shops who suggest that grocery stores will only carry cheap, low quality wines and will be unable to provide knowledgeable wine service. Then, in nearly the same breath, I hear the cry that the very grocery stores that fail to provide the great selection and service that wine drinkers have come to expect from their local wine shops, are going to take away their customers. This is a perspective on marketing that I don’t understand.
Even if the grocery store wine selection and service is abysmal as I am lead to believe by some, the grocery store setting will provide a level of convenience that will introduce new customers to the enjoyment of wine. The wine shops will have a competitive advantage to retain their current customers as well as the opportunity to engage a growing customer base.
My view on this issue in not borne of a selfish desire to grow my business at the expense of others’. It comes from my desire to grow and expand the wine industry of New York State; from growers, to wineries, to wholesalers, to stores (liquor stores AND grocery stores), to the consumer.
The loser that we must not forget is the grower. The grape industry in the New York is facing the most catastrophic downturn since the 1970′s. Without a substantial increase in customer base and sales, I will be forced to make drastic cuts to growers who I have worked closely with for the past ten years. But it’s not just me. And it’s not just the boutique, family wineries that we need to think about. Many thousands of tons of grapes are likely to drop in the vineyards this fall. These are the grapes that would have gone to some of the very large wineries in New York and into the mainstream wines that likely would have been common on most grocery store shelves. These wines don’t come from huge, corporate wineries. They come from farms. They come from families who have worked for decades and generations to build the agricultural communities that make up the grape growing regions of New York State.
When I speak about this issue, I’m not just talking about a bottle wine and who gets the buck for selling it. I speak the voice of our farms, and our families. And I hope for the day when we can work as an industry to grow and flourish together.
I have been spending some time in Albany for the past few days talking, but mostly listening, to all sides of the very hot issue of permitting the sale of wine in grocery stores. I would like to share some of my thoughts with you on this issue, which holds the potential to be transformational in the economy of upstate New York, and in New York as a whole. One of the points that I will stress is that this is issue is being hotly debated and will likely be decided in a matter of days. If you have an opinion about it, you have the opportunity today to have your voice make a difference. This opportunity will be gone very soon. So act TODAY! (Read more… for some help.)
Wine and food go well together and are truly are an example of what I, and many others, consider a healthy, responsible lifestyle. The convenience of being able to walk into a grocery store and purchase a bottle of wine would be very helpful for my family and my customers, and would help boost sales of wine in New York State.
But I believe that the question of selling wines in grocery stores is more than just an issue of retail sales. It’s not just an issue of who sells more — the liquor store or the grocery store — or about who “wins”. This is an agricultural and economic issue that has holds the future of the NY economy in the balance. Permitting the sales of wine in grocery stores will increase the overall sales of wine in New York State: this effect is very well documented in other states where this has happened. When I talk about boosting wine sales, I’m not just talking about selling more wine to the same group of customers. I’m talking about engaging an expanded set of wine consumers who, when presented with the opportunity and convenience of purchasing wine that is sold along side food, will adopt a routine that involves more frequent enjoyment of the health, social and gustatory benefits that come along with the responsible consumption of wine with their meals.
There are two types of sales that are essential to the success of any business. 1) Repeat sales to existing customers and 2) sales to new customers. I do believe that most liquor stores do a good job at culturing loyal customers who find value in the goods and services that they provide. But the fact that nearly 50% of New York State liquor stores have gone out of business in the past 20 years and that the current trend is to lose an additional 50 – 60 stores per year reinforces the idea that there may be a shortage of new customers.
If we consider the Farm Wineries of New York, we have seen tremendous growth with the number of wineries from about 150 wineries five years ago to over 260 today. And many of the wineries have shown annual growth in the double digits for the the past decade. In order to do this, we have prioritized our customers, both repeat customers and new customers, and grown an extensive customer base that has created “pull” in the retail markets (liquor stores) who carry NY wines.
The grocery store setting provides a unique opportunity to present wines to potential consumers in an atmosphere accompanying food, and at a time when that wine can be purchased for direct and immediate involvement in the preparation enjoyment of the meal at hand. Many of the best grocers already embrace the “eat local” philosophy and will embrace drinking locally as well. This is a plus, but not the only concern when it comes to marketing NY wines. All wines, regardless of origin, that are sold in this venues will help to build our novice wine drinkers in the food and wine culture, and to create new wine consumers. And, while the sale of NY wines has the biggest economic bang for the buck, wines produced outside of NY still contribute to the suffering NY state economy. That large body of new consumers will not be strangers to the wineries or the liquor stores.
Anyone familiar with how people are introduced to and enjoy wine realize that one’s taste in wine is anything but static. Invariably the novice wine consumer will be satisfied with a handful of wines that he or she first enjoys for a while. But before long, curiosity and exploration takes hold and leads the consumer to new styles and varieties of wines, and to new outlets. These outlets include the grocery store, the winery, and the wine shop.
The economic effects of increased sales by NY wineries is far reaching. It reaches even farther than the obvious scope the wineries and the stores. The growers who grow the grapes, the supplier who sells the tractors, wire, posts. The fabricator who makes the tanks and cellar equipment. The supplier who provides bottles, corks and labels. The list goes on. Increased sales means not only more tax money but more economic prosperity all around.
My final point:
This issue is being hotly debated in Albany. And the decision will be extremely close. If you have longed for the time that you can express your political voice in a way that is truly heard, the time is now. I would encourage you to at least contact your local legislators (you can use the link below to send an email). But keep in mind, it is not only the representatives of your own district, but all of the legislators that need to hear your voice. Your voice is important, but it does not trickle down the hallways of the capital. Your voice needs to be heard, loud and clear, in each office. There are a lot of people in the capital that value your voice. To make your effort a little more manageable, I’m including a list below of some of the select people who most need to hear what you have to say.
Governor Paterson 518…
Senator Malcolm Smith 518…
Senator Valesky 518…
Senator Aubertine 518…
Senator Stakowski 518…
Senator Foley 518…
Assemblyman Magee 518…
Speaker Silver 518…
Assemblywoman Christensen 518…
Assemblyman Parment 518…
Assemblywoman Lifton 518…
Assemblyman Canestrari 518…
Assemblywoman DelMonte 518…
Assemblywoman Eddington 518…
Assemblywoman Markey 518…
Assemblywoman Galef 518…
Assemblywoman Rosenthal 518…
Assemblyman Farrell 518-455-5491
Assemblywoman Jacobs 518-455-5385
Assemblyman Schimminger 518-455-4767
Some of the points that you may find important and want to express…
*NYS is 3rd in the nation for wine & grape production, but 46th in the nation per capita for the number of outlets to sell wine
*Wine in grocery stores does not put liquor stores out of business, in fact in the states that allow it, there are more liquor stores than in NYS
*Selling wine in grocery stores will increase sales of wine by creating NEW wine drinkers who will patronize grocery stores, wineries and liquor stores.
*35 other states allow the sale of wine in grocery stores.
*NYS is the only major grape growing state that does not allow the sale of wine in grocery stores.
*The number of liquor stores is decreasing in NYS by 60-80 per year
*There are only 2500 liquor stores left in NYS. California has 27,000 outlets to sell wine. North Carolina has 13,072 outlets
*Suppliers like tank manufacturers, label printers, bottle distributors, vineyard suppliers are all planning to expand and add jobs if NYS allows the sale of wine in food stores
Red Newt Cellars